In recent years, schools across the country have been scrutinized for administrative and disciplinary practices that increase the amount of out-of-school suspensions. According to many education advocates and experts, suspensions are a severe and ineffective punishment for student misbehavior – and one that is counterproductive to keeping students in school. Even more concerning is that schools have relied on this method as punishment for a range of nonviolent student offenses, including even the most minor misbehaviors. One UCLA study found that suspensions or expulsions of secondary school students increased by roughly 40% from 1973 to 2010.
The largest concern being voiced is that aggressive disciplinary actions such as suspensions increase dropout and arrest rates. These serious social repercussions have also been noted to disproportionately affect minorities and students with learning disabilities. A study of one million Texas students found that those who were suspended or expelled were nearly three times as likely to enter the juvenile justice system.
In response to these alarming statistics, many jurisdictions and schools across the country have adopted different approaches to disciplining students. In California and Maryland, for example, new regulations have been adopted specifically to reduce suspension rates, according to a recent New York Times opinion piece. Many schools have focused on providing students with drug counseling and conflict-resolution training, and use in-school or after-school detention rather than out-of-school suspensions. In the past year, California has seen a 14% drop in suspensions.
Disciplinary reforms in California and Maryland schools demonstrate that positive changes can be made when old, ineffective policies are evaluated and improved upon. Such positive change has also been seen within the criminal justice system. For now, however, the goal remains to have more states reduce school suspensions, thereby increasing graduation rates and reducing arrests.